In the basement of the Whitman School of Management at 8pm every Monday, dozens of students gather in Lender Auditorium to network with fellow entrepreneurs and listen to guest speakers. Entrepreneurship Club — better known as eClub — is dedicated to encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship on campus by connecting students with successful entrepreneurs, local businesses, and workshop events that teach valuable skills like ideation and pitching.
Sophia Sparrgrove, this year’s president of eClub, explained that being part of the club is deeply inspiring and has shaped her trajectory as a Syracuse student in the entrepreneurship field. Outside of eClub, Sophia is heavily involved with Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity that has also taught her important leadership skills.
Sophia has had an entrepreneurial streak since she was an elementary school child in Virginia, where she was selling handmade cards and jewelry, opening a restaurant for her family in her very own kitchen, and keeping a running list of business ideas on her phone.
Now, she is majoring in Marketing in addition to Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises through the Whitman School of Management. Beyond this, she is pursuing a nutrition minor to supplement her passion for the business she hopes to ultimately open — a spiritual-themed smoothie shop that inspires customers to reflect on their health, happiness, and wellbeing.
“We’re losing touch with the world around us, especially with the rise of technology leading us to be wrapped up in our phones, so I want to create a space where people can feel back in touch with themselves and their community — a space to have experiences and meet people,” Sophia explained.
She is also committed to opening a business that’s sustainable. “A lot of pressure is put on consumers to be sustainable,” Sophia said. “But 80-90% of these emissions are from corporations. So, to create real change, we need to create sustainable corporations.”
As someone who doesn’t own a business quite yet, Sophia emphasized that eClub isn’t just for students who currently have a business idea — it’s for anyone who generally has an interest in entrepreneurship. Being part of the club helped Sophia develop her confidence, come up with new ideas, improve her pitch for Whitman capstone, learn to network, and pursue her goals.
“That said, this is a great time to start your own business, while you’re a student,” Sophia added, referring to the limitless number of resources and funding available on campus, such as eClub or Syracuse University’s Blackstone Launchpad & Techstars.
Sophia also noted that although people often feel as though they need to start a scalable, tech-based business, eClub is open to students with all kinds of ideas. One of Sophia’s favorite past speakers, the founder of XO Taco and Original Grain, provided her with insights that will someday help her start her own brick-and-mortar shop.
“We have speakers in tech, in food, in anything really. So, you can relate to those special interests and determine the direction you want to take in the future,” Sophia stated.
This year, Sophia is aiming to get students more actively involved in the club to feel part of a community rather than only hosting events where students watch speakers. Especially after the previous year’s semester on Zoom, Sophia believes it’s important to engage students through workshops, challenges, pitches, and mini competitions.
When asked what she believes it means to be an innovator, Sophia said, “An innovator is someone who is thinking ahead to the future, where things are going and how they can fit into that. Not everyone can do this because so many people are resistant to change. Innovators are those who are excited about those changes and want to be a part of them.”
Following this year, Sophia plans to work for a startup or small company with a nutrition focus, where she can take an entrepreneurial approach to marketing. Once she has experience under her belt, she will then take the leap on starting her dream business.
In the meantime, she encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to keep an open mind. “Do a lot of listening and reading,” she said. “A lot of entrepreneurship classes can be jarring because they focus on how businesses fail, but that’s why you need to listen to the experiences of other entrepreneurs — to learn from them and their failures. That’s why eClub is so important too.”
To join eClub, email Sophia at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form. The first meeting of the year will be Monday, September 27th at 8pm in Lender Auditorium, which is room 007 in the Whitman School of Management.
Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied